Ammonia -- Help!

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markj

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I know this isn't a disease, but I wasn't sure where to post this question. Please feel free to mod it somewhere else.

I have a fairly new aquarium, 55 gallons about a month or two old. My ammonia levels have been steadily increasing regardless of what I do. I've been changing my carbon filters, been doing 30% water changes once or twice a week (a bit much I know but I don't see any other option) and I've used several ammonia treatments. My other vitals (Hardness, Alkalinity and pH) have always been perfect but lately, they've been slipping too. My fish don't seem very sick but they certainly don't look happy. I can't seem to get a cycle going and I'm not sure what else to do. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Here are my latest test results:
Ammonia: Was 6.0 last time I tested but is now way off the chart.
Nitrates: 20 ppm
Nitrite: 10 ppm
Hardness (GH): 100 ppm
Alkalinity: 60 ppm
pH: 6.5
 

inuyasha_lover_21

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How many fish are in the tank?
 
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markj

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inuyasha_lover_21

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Do you overfeed?
 

Jimold

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Are you using tap water?  And if so, are you testing it first? The reason i ask is here our water is HORRID... Clorimines off the scale.  It was so bad I switched to bottled drinking water.  That seems to clear my ammonia probles right up.
 
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markj

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Overfeeding -- I don't think so. It all dissapears within 5 minutes. I've been feeding them less and less though, thinking that's the problem.

Tapwater tests perfect for all the stuff I listed in my first post. But I don't think I have a test for Clorimines. Do you think I should look into that?

Initially I was running all the water through a Pur drinking water filter but stopped after realizing that the tap water was testing well without the filter. Think it's worth buying a few dozen gallons of distilled water?
 

inuyasha_lover_21

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What kind of filter are you using? Also I would look into buying a ro/di filter instead of going to the store every week to buy distilled water.
 

dsteamn

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There are several things you can do. First of all, please stop doing water changes every week. You are only continuing to kill the biological filter that is trying to grow in your tank. When you take water out, you are also removing some of the nitro-sinomas and nitro-bacteria that is building up. They change the amonia to nitrates and remove the nitrites. Go to the pet store and ask them for one of two products - Bio Spira or Stability. They will both help to jump start your development of these two things. Also, when you add the Amonia Detox products you get from the store, it does not remove the ammonia. It only changes it from a toxic form to a non-toxic form. What this means is that it will still register on your test, but it can no longer kill your fish.

You definitely have too much of a bio-load in your tank for being so new. Make sure you have good oxygenation going on and that you are not overfeeding. Ammonia is caused by fish excrements (feces and respiration), dead plant material and food that settles on the bottom of the tank. Your fish will always want more to eat, but I assure you they will get along on very small amounts of food.

Debbie
 
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markj

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I have a regular carbon filter that hangs on the side of the tank. What is a ro/di filter? I've never heard of that.

I'll try feeding less and doing fewer water changes. I've tried using a product called "Cycle" which is supposed to help jumpstart bacteria development. Is that similar to Bio Spira or Stability?
 

inuyasha_lover_21

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RO/DI filter "reverse osmosis/Reverse de-ionization" makes your water pure. Its very pricey but is worth the cost. You don't have to buy jugs and jugs of distilled water if you buy a RO/DI filter.

I am going to buy 1 when I get a reef tank started.
 

dsteamn

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Cycle is another one, but it is a VERY watered down version. That's why its so much less than Bio-Spira. Bio actually has live bacteria that you add to the tank. That's why it has to be kept refrigerated and has such a short shelf life. What you are using will work, but I would switch to Stability the next time you go over to the store.
 

griffin

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i know this was asked a while back, but a way to test for chloramines is to let your tap water sit out for a day or two, and then test the ammonia levels. if i recall correctly, chloramine will turn into chlorine and ammonia. the chlorine will off gas, and the ammonia will stay dissolved.

letting water sit at least overnight is also a way to avoid having to use additional chemicals to get rid of chlorine.

also, if you decide to go the ro route, be aware that you will most likely need to reconsititute the water so that your fish don't die from osmosis imbalance. most places have water that is fine to use for freshwater fish.
 

inuyasha_lover_21

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My friend was talking about walmart having a place where you can fill up your water jugs for free. They advertise it as drinking water. Around us there is a place next to the highway that has free drinking water. The people that get it say the water is very very very pure.
 

Gunnie

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Welcome to FishLore! It's great to have you with us!

First off, your ammonia and nitrite levels are past toxic. You need to do daily water changes of at least 50% and maybe twice daily if necessary. If the ammonia or nitrite levels are past 1.0, you need to do a water change to bring it down. Don't worry about the cycle right now. If you don't do those water changes, you won't have any fish left to worry about cycling for. Please let us know what type of tests you are using (strips or liquid drops).

I would not switch to bottled water just yet. It will get very expensive for you to do this, and it could drastically change your ph, which will add even more stress on your fish. What you can do though is use Amquel plus as your water conditioner while your tank is cycling. It will help neutralize the ammonia and nitrites, where the bacteria can still consume it, but it won't be toxic to your fish. Keep in mind though that your testing results might not be correct for your ammonia reading when using amquel plus unless you are using a test that has a color card that goes from yellow to green. There's something in the amquel plus that will throw the other tests off and give you a false positive. The amquel plus will treat for chlorine and chloramines. Try this first, and if you can't get your tank stabilized in a reasonable period of time, the next step would be to look into an RO filter.

Cycle and Stability are not in the same category as bio spira. Bio spira is the ONLY product that actually contains the same bacteria as found in a cycled tank. The other products may contain bacteria, but it's not the same strain. There are merely bacterial accelerators. Bio spira in theory, should be an instant cycle when you pour it in the tank. Many users experience some spikes in their ammonia and nitrite levels, but not nearly like they would if they were cycling without the bio spira. Cycle and stability should not be put into the same category as bio spira because they are not the same thing.

I don't think the theory of letting water sit out so the chloramine will turn into ammonia and chlorine is correct. I will let Dino answer that one since he has the biology degree. The purpose of letting your water set out overnight (called aging your water), is to allow the chorine to gas out. I don't think this happens with chloramine. As far as I know, the only way to get rid of chloramine from your tap is to treat it with a tap water conditioner that treats chloramines.

Please let us know what type of testing product you are using, and hang in there!
 

Jimold

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I din't think about it, but Gunnie is right, bottled water can be kind of expensive. I only do it because the tap water here is practically toxic. As for the pH and such, I tested a bunch of different brands, and it turned out that Publix "Drinking" water was ideal. But I can't speak for other brands. Some had very low pH's, or other such problems. I would think carefully and do a lot of research into what's available before going to bottled stuff.
 

Gunnie

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Jim said:
I din't think about it, but Gunnie is right, bottled water can be kind of expensive.  I only do it because the tap water here is practically toxic.  As for the pH and such, I tested a bunch of different brands, and it turned out that Publix "Drinking" water was ideal.  But I can't speak for other brands.  Some had very low pH's, or other such problems.  I would think carefully and do a lot of research into what's available before going to bottled stuff.
I agree Jim! RO systems will probably run you at least $100 to get one that will be able to keep up with the water changes, and then you have to supplement the water because all the trace elements have been taken out. Many folks probably leave the hobby because it gets too expensive and complicated. I think if you can make it work with the water you have coming out of your tap, then that would be best way to go. Most of us can do this (thank God!), and the less stress with the hobby, the more you will enjoy it!
 

Dino

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Chloramine will not break down unless you add a chemical agent to do that very job.
This is why most water companies have switched from straight chlorine to chloramine.

As to water changes, unless there is a harmful chemical present, such as ammonia, you are better off adding water that is close to what the fish are already in, than adding water with different pH, hardness......

Only under very limited circumstances should you add distilled water to a tank.

Hope this helps.

Dino
 
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